I don’t think I’m tactile myself. I mean, I think one thing today and I think another tomorrow. I change in a day. I wake up and I am one person, and when I go to sleep I know for sure that I am another. I don’t know who I am most of the time. I don’t even care. – Bob Dylan, 1997 NEWSWEEK interview
The super cute rock star emerged out of seemingly nowhere when Bob Dylan went to Newport with his touring band, the band – a Dylan unrecognizable by the serious folks who followed Bob Dylan into Greenwich Village and protest singer. Where did the real Dylan go – Dylan has tried every acoustic guitar singer/songwriter to become, until the café scene fell off with thousands of wannabe Dylan? do not look backD.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary about Dylan at the height of the mid-1960s warned.
“do not look back. “There might be something to win you over,” Satchel Page said, giving Pennebecker his title and Dylan a job outlook. Those who are stuck in the past – until the very recent past – will never understand it, like Mr. Jones in “Ballad of a Thin Man,” a song critic described by Andy Gill as “an angry, cynical, dressed-up bourgeois outsider unlucky in the hipster world.” Of the freaks and strangers that Dylan now inhabits.” Those who searched for answers found them blown away, even when they went straight to the source.
Above, watch the only fully televised press conference that Dylan, for the San Francisco education television station, gave for KQED. Among the attendees were members of the local and national press, reporters from several high school papers, Dylan’s entourage, and famous friends such as Allen Ginsberg and promoter Bill Graham. It’s a performance like The Next Night Show at the Berkeley Community Theater. “The Questions,” notes Jonathan Cote, editor basic interviews“Ranged from the questions of regular reporters and reporters, to questions from teenage fan clubs to personal inquiries within the group and extras, to questions from those who really listened to Dylan’s songs.”
Dylan’s behavior during the interview was perfectly captured by Cate Blanchett’s Academy Award-nominated performance of a character called “Good Queen” in Todd Haynes’ 2007 biopic, I’m not there. In scenes inspired by the KQED press conference, Blanchett played as Queen with the press, just as Dylan threw posters like “Folk Rock” at them and refused to be drawn into discussions of philosophy or politics. “I think of myself more as a man who sings and dances, you know,” he says in comically self-erasing, his impenetrable looks behind Ray-Ban and clouds of cigarette smoke.
I love Dylan I’m not there, a film that tells its story through six fictional characters, played by six different actors. (“Do you think the director was worried that people would understand him or not?” he said. “I don’t think he cared a little.” The ’60s didn’t burn out and die in a motorcycle accident, and he didn’t make fun of her. all question, though he said he wrote “The Tale of a Thin Man” in response to people who ask me questions all the time. I get tired of it every now and then… I guess a person’s life speaks for itself, right? “
But what we don’t exactly find in Dylan’s music is autobiography. He keeps interlocutors (including Ginsberg, at 33:00, and Graham, at 25:31) guessing, often assimilating after an audio clip summarizing the new sound and image. Perhaps the most honest questions he gave them came in response to the question, “What are you thinking about right now?” Dylan stares at his cigarette, and the now Nobel Prize-winning singer-songwriter says, “I’m thinking of this ashes…the ashes are creeping up on me somewhere—I’ve lost—I’ve lost touch with myself, so I can’t figure out exactly where they are.”
Read the full text of the press conference here.
Bob Dylan’s Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions
Tangled in Blue: Deciphering Bob Dylan’s Masterpiece
Reimagining Bob Dylan’s classic songs as fictional book covers: “Like a Rolling Stone”, “A-Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and more
Josh Jones is a writer based in Durham, North Carolina. Follow him on @jdmagness
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